There’s new skincare or ingredient being touted on market everyday.  Vitamin C is still being raved by dermatologists, beauty bloggers, and aestheticians.  It has been on the top of the game (Besides Retinoids) due to its extraordinary ability for stimulating collagen production, helps reduce signs of aging, repairing damaged skin from free radicals.


What Is Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in various food, dietary supplements, and skincare products.  It's an essential nutrient involved in the repair of tissue such as skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, and enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters; it helps boost immune system and works as antioxidant.

Oral form of Vitamin C helped disease Scurvy back in 18th century, widely researched in 1930, and found it was beneficial not only to health, but also for our skin condition tremendously. Since then topical Vitamin C products swiped the skincare world.  Topical Vitamin C offers a wide range of benefits to the skin, however, shop for the right one that truly works can be tricky and stressful.  The correct bottle of serum requires precise formulations to allow better penetration into the skin in order to bring not only visible results, also works well in transdermal delivery.  Here’s the list of most seen form of Vitamin C:

1. L-Ascorbic Acid
2. Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate (AAP)
3. Calcium Ascorbate
4. Ascorbyl Glucoside
5. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
6. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
7. Ethyl Ascorbic Acid (EAC)
8. Sodium Ascorbate Phosphonate


L-Ascorbic Acid
Water Soluble
It’s widely used for rejuvenating skin, skin brightening, anti-inflammatory, repairing sun damage, reducing sign of aging, improving hyperpigmentation.

The “L” in the front refers to how the molecule itself rotates to light and its source. It is usually derived from oranges. Its products penetrate to skin tissue and active in collagen production to deliver firmness and plump skin.   It’s found in topical skincare products with concentration between 5 - 20%. Any higher concentration can irritate the skin and due to its low PH, it’s unsuitable for sensitive skin types or skin with wounds.

However, its lack of stability causes degrading in a very short period of time.  It is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry and consumers and that's one of the reasons other forms of Vitamin C started to come out on the market.
Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate

Water Soluble
A combination of ascorbic acid (pure Vitamin C) with a molecule called 3-APPA ( 3-aminopropyl dehydrogen phosphate),  a newish version created by Korean beauty industry.

It is a stable derivative that has both anti-wrinkle and whitening effects like other vitamin c forms. A K-beauty company had a study with 33 participants, found 23% of wrinkles and 29 - 33% of hyperpigmentation have reduced after 8 weeks of using with just 0.5% AAP.

AAP has briefly mentioned as an antioxidant that adds additional UV protection to sunscreen formulas and reviewed skin-whitening ingredients.  Overall, there is not much data on this form of Vitamin C. 

Calcium Ascorbate

(known as
Ester C,
Mineral ascorbate)

Water Soluble
A buffered salt form of ascorbic acid, is the vitamin C hook up with calcium, zine, magnesium.
 So that means you’ll get the benefits from calcium, zine, magnesium.

It is a pivotal role in the body's functions such as synthesis of neurotransmitters, infection resistance, collagen production, tissue repair. It mainly functions as an antioxidant for its anti-aging benefits including building collagen, against free-radicals, anti-inflammations, reducing wrinkles and lightening discolorations.

They may enhance the activity or at least provide their own nutritional value when you mix them up with liposome (to make oil soluble vitamin c for better penetration as topical used)It is made for supplementing and also preserves a finished product by slowing the possibility of deterioration caused by exposure to the air. A variety of products such as facial moisturizer, sunscreen, mouthwash, whitening toothpaste, and cleanser contain a good part of calcium ascorbate.
Ascorbyl Glucoside
Water Soluble

It has greater stability and less irritating than L-Ascorbic Acid.  It’s a pure Vitamin C and offers skin brightening benefits like other forms.

It has a structure in which the C2-hydroxyl group of L-ascorbic acid is masked with glucose. Once selectively permeated through the skin, ascorbyl glucoside is broken down into L-ascorbic acid and glucose by the enzyme alpha-glucosidase.  Because ascorbyl glucoside is broken down into L-ascorbic acid, it has the same functions as L-ascorbic acid: exhibiting high antioxidant activity, acting as a coenzyme for enzymes involved in collagen synthesis (namely prolyl and lysyl hydroxylase), and inhibiting the synthesis of melanin.

According to the research by Hayashibara International, ascorbyl glucoside has excellent stability in heat, light, and in the presence of oxygen and metal ions when compared to other forms of vitamin C.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

(ATIP, also called as
Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate)
Oil Soluble

It is an analogue of L-Ascorbic Acid, however unlike the unstable water soluble form, it is oil soluble, heat and light stable.  Some researchers found this form of vitamin C has a greater affinity for skin due to its fatty acid component (Palmitate) helps greater penetration.

It pairs completely well with other forms of vitamin C and retinol for enhanced effectiveness in stimulate cells, delivers noticeable results in age reversing along with the beneficials that other vitamin c forms could bring. (even on sensitive skin)

It could be the most priciest Vitamin C form, the premium pure cosmetic grade could costs $1000USD/kilo

 Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Water Soluble

 It has the same potential as other vitamin C to boost skin collagen synthesis but less potent than L-Ascorbic Acid.  Because of its effectivity and non-irritating agent, its concentration can be used as low as 10% to suppress melanin formation (such as skin-whitening solutions) by inhibiting skin cells to produce melanin and lightening age spots. 

It’s mostly used for UV protection, sun damaged repair, collagen production, skin lightening and brightening.  MAP may be better choice than L-Ascorbic Acid for people with sensitive skin and those wishing to avoid exfoliating effect due to a good part of Vitamin C formulas are highly acidic.

Ethyl Ascorbic Acid

Oil / Water soluble

Ethylated Ascorbic Acid is an etherified derivative of ascorbic acid, that consists of vitamin C and an ethyl group bound to the third carbon position. This form is very stable and soluble in both water and oil. It acts directly like Vitamin C, is closer in molecular weight to actual Vitamin C which allows for faster visible results. 

Sodium Ascorbate Phosphonate
Water Soluble

It’s a sodium form Vitamin C. It seems to be a promising derivative that has great stability up to pH 7, however the challenge with it though is skin penetration.  It has a mild property of antioxidant but less than Ascorbic Acid. It also seems to helps reduce inflammation in acne (according to tube test and test with participants in 2005 and 2009).  

Niacinamide can affect integrity of pure-form Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid).
Better used separately in AM vs PM routine.


The Myth

Myth : Vitamin Cs are all the same, I can DIY with Lemon
Fact : We love naturals but not all naturals are good (not all synthetics are good either), it's about how they are made, their quality and bioavailability. 

Lemons seem to be rich in Vitamin C, AHA and Niacin, however what you need is the Active Ingredients that are 100% stable and in non-oxidizing form, as well as with high ability to go in the cells thru the skin instead of sitting on the surface.  
You might also need to consider not each lemon contains exact the same nutrients, then comes the questions of the place that they come from, how they were farmed etc.

Here's an idea of Lemon juice vs Vit C serum
A sample of lemon juice : 5% Citric Acid, 0.04% Ascorbic Acid, and 0.0001% Niacin
In a bottle of Vitamin C Serum : 2-15% AHA, 5-15% ascorbic acid, and 2-10% niacinamide
That means you'll be likely get more irritation and depigmented patches from citric acid than getting all the benefits from ascorbic acid by using lemon juice.

The other thing is most citric fruits contain phototoxic compounds (furanocoumarins and psoralens) , once you leave them on the skin and being exposed under the sunlight, you'll have a higher chance to get phytophotodermatitis ( berloque dermatitis or margarita photodermatitis, is a cutaneous phototoxic inflammatory reaction)

Myth : If it gives you tingling feeling, it means it's working
Fact : Good skincare should never hurt nor give you the feeling of tingling and stinging.  Skin renewal and repair not only about the surface, it's also comes from within (the deeper layer).  It goes by skin cycle which takes about 28 - 60 days (depends on the depth of the skin)  Any pain or skin sloughing are the results of shortcuts, and wouldn't bring the long term results.  Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate or Ethyl Ascorbic Acid (see the list above) are non irritating and fast absorbing form that don't leave any tingling nor irritations while working on the skin and in the cells.

Myth : $10 bottle is exactly the same as $100 bottle
Fact : Here comes the marketing, brand, source, quality.  We are unable to determine if they are both the same just by looking at the price tag.
Let's say one brand invests big portions of money on advertising and promotional events, so they might cut cost on resource / ingredients/ quality on products. 
While the other brand focuses on its quality of what's inside the bottle than making their names huge.  SO in this case, they both could cost over $100, it only depends on the consumer rather pays for the brand name/gimmick or quality of the products.

The other thing is concentration, the $10 bottle might be diluted with water while the other one contains no fillers nor water. There are definitely lots of factors get involved (or behind) the price tag.  

Myth : Sensitive skin can't use Vitamin C products
Fact : Actually we encourage people with sensitive skin should add Vitamin C in their skincare rituals as it helps repair and rebuild the skin.  However, it's better to choose less irritating formulation than old generation of vitamin c.  New technology and formulation of Vitamin C products have been widely used with people with sensitive skin. You could also read this to find out what'd be the best to pair up with Vitamin C to maximize repairing result.



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